This is my humble attempt to share my practice with you, and offer some practical advice on daily application of deity worship. Please remember it is a relationship between you and Krishna - offer with love and don't stress out.
Looking after the Lord is pretty sublime. What nicer activity is there than caring for Krishna?
In this day and age there are no hard and fast rules that you need to follow to look after deities of Nitai Gaura or Krishna.
While the nectar of devotion does outline offenses against deities because we have become so far from able to observe all the specific ins and outs it is better for home deity worship to instead understand very practical considerations.
The rules and regulations if you look at them objectively are all there to guide us into nicely caring for the deities, as we would a guest whom was most valued.
If you keep that in mind, then it is very simple to provide the same intention of worship for Krishna and Gaura Nitai. Then even if we are not perfectly correct we are still sincerely trying to be pleasing by establishing a relationship of love.
A lot of times my friends ask in desperation how to look after deities! Especially now, when I do a lot of instagram posts about deity clothes, deity painting, and so on. By no means am I an authority, so all I can share is what I learnt from my dear mother in growing up in how she cared for her deities and so I am happy to offer at least that example, as well as my own understanding on the WHY, that might help inform your decisions when you are not exactly sure what is the pleasing choice.
The most important I would suggest is keeping your practice regular, so that the Lord knows when he is going to eat, bathe, dress, sleep.
You do not have to institute a temple like regime at home, but you should daily visit Krsna and offer Him something, or what is the point of inviting Him to inhabit this archa vigraha form and accept your worship?
The wonderful reason that we are trained in deity worship and adopt it is because it gives us the opportunity to develop a very real loving and caring relationship with the Lord. Whether it is Nitai Gaura or Gopal Krishna the intention is the same. Learn to serve with love*.
There are no hard and fast rules – but you may, depending on the type of deity you have, wish to offer the Lord baths, fresh clothes, & a bed to rest in, along with food, flowers, water or arotik.
To give a practical example, this is my regime of caring for my Nitai Gaura, and my role model is my mother, who has very wonderfully cared for her beloved Gaura Nitai for the past decades. I remember their installation when I was a child as the most incredible event! It was amazing to me and I still vividly remember the sounds, textures, sights – Beautiful deities standing in glowing red translucent bowls being poured over with ghee, rosewater, and the one which really astonished me was yoghurt… more later on what you can do to install your deities.
My deity worship practices:
I bathe before I visit my lords, and ring a bell to alert them that I am coming to see them. I open the altar doors pay my respects and request that they please arise and take their bath.
With prepared warm water in a jug scented with drop of rosewater, I ask them to step into their big bath, “Please step into your bath now my dear Lord Chaitanya”, and undress them. Pouring the water nicely over the body of the Lord I then take a nice cloth and dry them, “Please step out of your bath now my dear Lord”, before dressing them again for the day.
Once dressed I used to show them their own beautiful reflection in a mirror but it broke and I haven’t replaced it yet…
Then we offer food and have a kirtan with arotik & gurupuja.
I leave lights on for them in the evening and offer them dinner with more kirtan, and then before I go to sleep I invite them to take their rest (usually I say, “please take your rest now my dear Lord Chaitanya/ Nityananda) lay them down (physically placing them in beds) after removing their ornaments and dressed only in the dhoti from the day, cover them with their blankets and lights off.
My mother also reads them a passage from scripture for their pleasure once her Lords are resting and before the lights go out. Such a nice practice!
It’s nicer to have specific pajamas! And dress them in that… I used to completely undress them to put them to bed (it’s very hot here in Australia, and they use only a sheet in summer and a sheet and light blanket in winter) but then I was concerned that they would become cold while waiting for their bath (They stand up out of bed first and I put the beds away to allow room for the bath).
I do not have a specific time which I wake them up or put them to rest or offer dinner, it flows with our family life, but usually I wake them up at 6am and then in bed between 9-11pm. The breakfast offering is before 8am because after that we are getting ready for school. Sometimes I will simply offer fruit, sometimes make it special.
Now it doesn’t have to be this full on, or it could be more so! Some people change their deities garments monthly, or only on appearance days, or every weekend. Some people are far more elaborate than I am! They might be very practiced at having exact times to attend the deities, but in our family we do what we can, and what we can do is care for Krsna like another of the family members, so we do our best and pray that it will be enough.
Marble deities are very fragile, and usually one will not move them about on the altar. Instead of actually laying them down to rest, one can prepare a bed for them, and invite them to take their rest upon the bed. (not physically placing them into the bed).
The most important aspect of worshiping deities of Krishna and Nitai Gaur is to remember that what they appreciate the most, what we can offer them, is the Holy Name. Having an altar there and plonking food down and paying obeisances and moving away… it’s good that you are offering your food but what Krsna enjoys is hearing His names! So better to streamline your deity care, and offer more kirtan with love.
This is my humble attempt to share my practice with you, and offer some practical advice on daily application of deity worship. Please remember it is a relationship between you and Krishna – offer with love and don’t stress out.
Things that we can do to be considerate:
Wash our body before visiting the lord.
Wash our hands before touching the lord or His paraphernalia (his arotik tray, clothes, food, etc)
Be attentive to the Lord while the altar is open or uncovered (don’t conduct other conversations, ignore him, subject the deity to anything unpleasant like nasty noise(Screaming kids!) or fighting.. etc Sometimes it is necessary to pause and gently guide your children before the Lord, don’t freak out it happens when you are raising kids, all the more reason to give your guidance in the most appropriate way with the well-being of your kids in mind).
Offer the lord only vegetarian food (duh, sorry, I just put it in because you know… just in case).
When offering the Lord water to bathe in – give Him fresh clean water that you haven’t put your hands in – the water should be nice and fresh. I get the tap water to the right temperature on my wrist before filling a jug.
Give the Lord a nice sitting place (put some effort into decorating the room of the Lord – this one is fun! You will do this naturally anyway)
Give the Lord a nice resting place (that bed for night time?)
Offer the Lord various refreshments thoughtfully
Offer kirtan for His pleasure..offer Him His own Holy Names with love!
*Don’t worry- Krishna will help guide you from within your heart, and externally so you may refine your deity worship and offerings… sometimes (ok often) when I am preparing a little offering to my Lord I get the inspiration.. oh it would be nicer if you also offered…
We can get inspired by visiting other nice devotees and see what they do to worship their Lordships too! I know there is just SO MUCH MORE that can be done, but if like me you are in family raising stage of life you probably need to keep things simple, or just need some inspiration to get started.
I hope that my humble thoughts on this will not offend the more learned, and if I am mistaken then please feel free to correct me.